Apple’s AirPower: a fiasco beyond imagination

“AirPower is not your stereotypical screwup. It’s something far grander. Never in history has Apple announced a product, gone silent about it for 18 months, and then killed it before it ever shipped,” Ken Segall writes for The Observatory. “At least it proves that Apple can be a true innovator in the area of self-immolation.”

“‘Freedom to fail’ is actually a liberating thing, essential to the Apple culture,” Segall writes. “Unfortunately, AirPower isn’t the ‘liberating’ kind of failure. It’s just shocking and sad. Bad planning? Bad vision? Bad strategy? Bad engineering? I don’t know exactly what to call it, but I’m pretty sure it starts with the word ‘bad.'”

“Even Apple’s statement about the end of AirPower was a failure. For some reason, Tim Cook let it fall to Senior VP Dan Riccio, whose emailed explanation concluded, ‘“the future is wireless and we are committed to push the wireless experience forward,'” Segall writes. “A limp defense from a company that just failed so publicly to push the wireless experience forward.”

“Naively, I expect Apple-level engineers to have a pretty good grasp of what is possible and what is not—and to have that grasp long before Tim Cook goes onstage to announce the product,” Segall writes. “If the engineers had their reckoning with the laws of physics a bit sooner, Apple wouldn’t be shipping those wonderful new AirPods in a box that shows off the amazing new AirPower. (A little icing on this cake of embarrassment.)”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Hopefully, the AirPower fiasco, as Segall rightly describes it, is a wakeup call that reverberates throughout Apple, shaking out some dead wood the process.

Apple officially pulls the plug on AirPower – March 29, 2019
Apple’s AirPower to launch late this month, supply chain sources say – March 22, 2019
Apple secures rights to AirPower trademark – March 21, 2019
New AirPower image alongside iPhone XS appears within Apple’s website code – March 21, 2019
Will we see Apple announce AirPower, new iPod touch before week’s end? – March 20, 2019
Apple has approved production of AirPower wireless-charging mat – March 20, 2019
Apple’s iOS 12.2 beta 6 includes AirPower support – March 20, 2019
Tim Cook’s Apple vs. Steve Jobs’ Apple – February 28, 2019
Apple unveils AirPower charging mat to simultaneously charge your iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods; coming ‘next year’ – September 12, 2017
Apple’s desperate Mac Pro damage control message hints at a confused, divided company – April 6, 2017
What Steve Jobs gave Apple that Tim Cook cannot – November 18, 2015
The culture at Apple changed when Tim Cook took over as CEO – April 10, 2017
Lazy Apple. It’s not hard to imagine Steve Jobs asking, ‘What have you been doing for the last four years?’ – December 9, 2016
Open letter to Tim Cook: Apple needs to do better – January 5, 2015


    1. Yeah, not like talking about a G5 PowerBook and then failing to deliver that. I mean, that’s just a laptop. This is a charging mat. Vastly more important. Sheesh. People have no sense of history.

      1. Nobody claims Jobs was perfect. The key difference between then and now is that when the developers found G5 couldn’t complete against wintel laptops, Apple made immediate and drastic course correction. Apple made the painful switch to Intel processors and continued to make the best performing computers until Cook took over.

        Cook’s ability to keep legacy businesses going is a major embarrassment. The airpower fiasco simply proves that the managers running Apple today are so insulated by app store cash that they cannot relate to users. Even if Airpower safely worked as smart ass marketeer Schiller proposed — what problem would it solve at what price? Qi chargers are slower than cables and if plugging in a cable is too hard, you can buy 5 orher brand chargers for the price of one Apple charger. Stupid marketing.

        Other people bring up the G4 Cube. Well look at the difference a decade makes — in one year, seeing people didn’t want minimalist aesthetic with weak performance, Apple cut it. A decade later, the idiots in Cupertino now didn’t learn the lesson. Now we have a 6 year old Trashcan that Apple attempts to sell for outrageous prices, it was obsolete the year it was introduced. We have an “entry level” Mac mini that costs double what any other brand costs with Apple doing zero innovation to make it more efficient than an HP or Dell.

        Others point to the hockey puck mouse (M4848) as a major failure. To me the biggest failure of that mouse was the short cord. Anyway back then Apple listened. It was replaced in 2 years with the all new M5769. Does Apple today — with practically infinite resources at its disposal — fix its products in 2 years or less?

        No, quite the opposite. Almost all Mac “updates” under Cook have been embarrassing slow, reusing chassis and adding nothing but off the shelf processors that the competition offers first. Hardware married to best interface software design, once an Apple strong point, is increasingly weak. Cook wants Apple to be a utility company, not a product innovator.

        I cannot think of a better way to kill faith in a company than to treat Mac user the way the mismanagers at Apple today have been acting.

        Keyboard issues. Airpower. Mac Pro. Zero chassis updates. Single port MacBook. Software issues. Dongle hell. Zero maintenance for iLife and iWork apps. Maps. Siri. Prices through the roof.

        Great companies fix their mistakes. Cook can’t fix shit.

    2. Does Cook even know HOW to fire people? I mean, Jobs may have swung a heavy axe, but he got results.

      Seems the pendulum has swung too far the other way.

  1. Welcome to Tim Cook’s Apple. This sort of arrogant decision would have never happened under any other CEO, let alone Jobs.

    There is only one reason that Apple canceled this.
    The “PROFIT”!
    Tim did not see the good enough “profit” there. Not that it does not produce any profit. It does, but not to his liking. He finally realized that this was not something he could overprice it. Sure there might be a fire risk or perhaps other technical challenges which might not be worth the profit potential, but they announced this with usual bullish hyping 2 years ago (or so), and I have not heard fire hazards etc. in other makes.
    It’s the same reason Apple killed the network equipment, although I thought the Airport series equipment was excellent. Besides its performance, it was an easy plug and play. There are so many competitions making the same thing, and the ARP is relatively low, i.e., no juicy profit. There are many other things Tim Cook dropped entirely or suspended the development or updating. The beancounter mentality always takes a look at things from a profit viewpoint in a quarter interval. How sad!….
    Technical reason? No way! It was easy for Apple to produce this, and that’s why they announced this a long time ago. Perhaps they were carried away for equipping iPhones with the induction charging and thought it was a good idea to producer chargers. Apple has always made a huge profit by selling overpriced accessories, cables, dongles and such.
    So he blew his own horn big time, but it fizzled away. Seeing so many excellent products at such a competitive price (that fact never changed, just no visions in his thinking), and Apple chickened out. I mean, I would not have purchased an Apple-branded charger anyway, simply because there are so many excellent and cheaper ones flooding the market. We knew better than Cook, didn’t we? But what I do not like is that Apple announced certain products way back when, and suddenly came out canceling it. I take it as an audacious snubbing of the loyal customer base to satisfy Apple’s own convenience.
    Hey, I still madly love Apple, but just not the Cook’s operation.

    1. Timmy’s roots are Compaq. It really shows!

      Sometimes I wonder if he even use a Mac at all. – Chances are he don’t given his advanced Excel spreadsheets won’t run on the crippleware macOS version, so he probably is a regular Windows user.

      That could explain his disdain for the Mac, but attention to the iPhone and iPad that he surely use all the time.

    2. Your concluding sentence makes a distinction between Apple Corp. and Tim Cook. Perhaps the next development along this line will be a physical separation of Cook from Apple in the form of a resignation or firing. But I am not sure that this would be best for Apple; Who is better than Cook inside Apple? I joke about Forstall returning to take the reigns but he’s firmly ensconced in the creative world so I doubt that he would.

      Ive does not seem to have all of the prerequisites to be a tech leader and visionary. His role is best served in design, not in commerce.

      An ideal person would have commerce, innovation, technology, and promotion in his background, but where is that person? Someone with some of these aspects but with a lot of potential to develop the rest — just like the coach of the LA Rams was chosen — could emerge.

      I know that I lost confidence in Cook yet I am not sure that I am justified. Apple seems to be fissioning.

      1. While Ive perhaps is a brilliant (conceptual) industrial designer, he has been a prime mover for pushing form over function to the detriment of multiple product lines. IMO, he needs to be removed from product design entirely.

      2. ” I joke about Forstall returning to take the reigns but he’s firmly ensconced in the creative world so I doubt that he would.”

        Never say never

    3. Really? No other CEO? How about when Apple announced a whole new division to make the Newton? People were packing up, getting ready to move she Steve Jobs canceled the whole thing.

      This is a frickin charger. Not even a computer. People are just looking for reasons to whine.

    4. They cancelled it because what it was supposed to do was actually impossible from an engineering standpoint. The true failure when this concept was not killed in the early engineering phase, preferably before it was ever even mentioned in public.

  2. Unless the updated and pre-announced Mac Pro soon materialize, this fiasco will pale in comparison.
    It has not been only 18 months, it has been years!

    1. That’s a pretty silly quote if you think about it. Real engineers ship. Real artists wish they could understand the engineering behind their designs!

  3. Holy Moly, people! It’s an inductive charging mat. There’s nothing innovative or market capturing about it. Who cares if it was cancelled? There are dozens of options in this space which all function similarly and differ only in cosmetics (e.g. aluminum or wood trim, etc.)

    To me, the real question is why Apple ever thought that they needed a product in this area. There’s no room to innovate or charge a premium. Cancelling it was smart. Announcing it was dumb. Wasting cycles on it is a lost opportunity cost where the resources could have been better applied.

    1. They thought they could add innovations and other value-add to inflate the price, like power status of all charging devices on an iPhone screen.

      Except those are minor value-add at best, and IMHO would never be worth the premium over non-Apple mats.

      They are making the same mistake with the new “modular” Mac Pro. It won’t be worth the premium. Certainly not worth waiting an extra year, when Apple could’ve put together a traditional tower in a tenth of the time.

    2. Poster after poster keeps repeating the theme that this was easy to do, as illustrated by the many excellent and cheaper devices flooding the market. They have the right to their own opinion, but not their own facts.

      The AirPower device was a single flat surface where a user could just drop three Apple devices to fast charge without worrying about their location or orientation. That proved impossible to do (at least within safety and price constraints), as illustrated by there being no other device on the market that can do that, regardless of price.

      There are plenty of inexpensive devices that do something else entirely, but why would Apple want to compete in that market? The company has a long history of avoiding or abandoning peripheral markets where there were adequate third-party suppliers. Try laser printers, digital cameras, external storage, and so forth.

      The same thing happened after Steve Jobs promised a PowerBook G5. It never shipped because of engineering constraints. Not even Steve could do the impossible.

  4. Imagine if you will.
    If Pipeline Timmy had focused on Apple as much as he has on every single SJW cause that came down the pike.
    Just think of where Apple could be today.

  5. maybe, it wasn’t a screw-up. maybe, it was found to have a weakness that left it vulnerable. maybe, they found it infringed on a qualcomm patent. maybe, it was packaged a wave but became a particle when no one was looking. maybe, a little chinese man took photos of airpower secrets and then vanished. maybe, there’s a real reason, one that actually makes sense but cannot be publicized. whatever, i bet something as important as this, mr jobs would be exhaustively involved and this article would never have been written.

  6. The guys at MDN really hate Tim Cook. And quite frankly, I don’t know why.

    Products fail all the time. The Apple Power Mac G4 Cube lasted just a year! I suspect that was more of a “clusterfsck” (using a phrase MDN editors enjoy using) that the AirPower ever will be.

    Trying for a technology leap forward (a moon shot) and failing is not an embarrassment or a “clusterfsck”. Failing to attempt that moon shot or striving to achieve a technological advance when one could – IS.

    It’s a pity AirPower was announced and never delivered. But instead of giving some credit to Apple for at least trying as long as it did instead of bashing the attempt seems to me an example of “poor sportsmanship”. Fortunately, all this and more will pass soon.

    1. This isn’t a product failure. This is a management & marketing failure. Products DO fail all the time. Apple’s hallmark (in general, and certainly since the end of PowerPC era) has been to announce & ship. NO VAPORWARE. No vague promises of a future product.

      When they announced iPhone (or iPad?), Jobs basically apologized for that — saying that they were forced to announce because the FCC regulation was going to force them to reveal their skunkworks too far ahead to keep it quiet.

      Cook should not have announced it (with photos no less, as if the damned thing already existed). He should not have sold other products on its tail (inductive-charging phones, watches, headphones). He should not have put A PICTURE OF IT ON THE BOX of some of those coattail products. These are management failures. Not product failures.

      It’s dishonest, and it makes Apple’s brand less trustworthy. Now I don’t just have reason to believe that the product will ship late or incomplete; I have reason to believe the product will not ship.

    2. The idea of a charging mat that detects the locations of various devices set upon it, and adjusts its magnetic fields to accommodate the various devices wherever they lie, is magical in its convenience. Probably was working in concept with a few well placed devices. But given the totally unpredictable mix of devices and placements I’m sure it became a software nightmare to detect, adjust, and control with absolute accuracy the adjustment of the fields and their interactions. And given that the consequences of incorrectly adjusting these fields could not only result in unreliable charging but even a fire hazard due to overheating, I think it is best to give up on this unless 100% reliability and safety and be achieved. Probably came close but wasn’t worth the risk.

      1. Correct.

        And when you don’t have a working product, you don’t

        A) Promote it…
        B) …with art
        C) …and attach that art to shipping products
        D) …and document that shipping products “work with” it.

        It’s deceptive marketing at least. Selling other products on their compatibility with a product that doesn’t exist.

        May even rise the level of fraudulent bait-and-switch.

  7. It was only a charging mat that got cancelled, so what’s the big deal? Better to not ship it than to start fires when using it. At least now, there won’t be dozens of class-action lawsuits. The concept wasn’t feasible so it was cancelled, yet somehow this has become a major fiasco for Apple. It’s certainly far less of a fiasco than the shipped trashcan Mac Pro which was much more costly a product.

    Why is it that everything Apple does is blown out of proportion by the news media? So the AirPower charger became vapor-ware. I’d hardly think it’s going to ruin Apple as a company. Apple apologized for not shipping the product and that should be good enough. It’s not as though there were pre-orders for the AirPower charging mat.

    1. Apple has built up its reputation to be an ideal it can no longer maintain. SJ did a good job cutting the chaff when needed and keeping things under wraps till ready. Apple today has those high standards built up over time that distinguished them from the crowd to live up to. With each ‘failure’ they lose a bit of their accumulated social currency and approach the level of ‘the rest’.

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